If Boomers had the internet and documented the Summer of Love with photos of "loving the one you're with" or blog posts about experimenting with psychedelics, would they have been hired?
That's the crux of this Wall Street Journal article about the reality of this generation living their lives online. We're going through a painful transition, but we are in the midst of a generational shift. The argument is essentially that young people who post photos of themselves doing beer bongs may lose a job opportunity or two now but will ultimately be the ones making the hiring decisions. And that as a society, we'll look back on this time with the same attitude we have towards the flower children. "They were just kids then." "Those were wild times."
While this may be true, and young people may as Emily Nussbaum wrote in her seminal New York magazine piece "Say Everything," be developing a thicker skin, I wonder if "lifecasting" as a cultural norm is a good thing? It feels a little bit like science fiction, and I tend to agree somewhat with Generation Me author Jean Twenge that it is somewhat narcissistic. I wonder if, like the Boomers' idealistic self indulgence in the 60s, we're going through another cultural blip -- and that the obsession with confessional culture and celebrity will die down eventually as well.
Many teens are still just waking up to the reality that adults in positions of authority over them would even venture to find their MySpace or Facebook profiles. They are not all Justin from Justin.tv. They still think only their friends are looking. Granted, there are teens and young adults who are conscious of having a larger audience and who want that audience for their Flickr photos, YouTube videos or other online creations. But the trend documented by Pew and others of increased privacy settings tells me now that teens are aware other people besides their friends are looking, they are pulling back.
I also think people tend to get more conservative as they get older and forget what it means to be young and become less forgiving of the next generation. So my question is will this generation push the limits of what is tolerated as a natural part of growing up online? And will they continue to be tolerant themselves when they are older and in positions of authority? Remember, it's the former flower children who are the ones aghast at what they're finding on teens' profiles today.
What do you think? Is the "Say Everything" generation forever transforming our society's views of privacy or are we in an extreme period that will eventually be reigned back in?
This post was originally published on Ypulse, a blog providing daily news and commentary about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals.